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AP American Government: Chapter Eleven: Congress

AP American Government: Chapter Eleven: Congress

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Published by: irregularflowers on Jul 16, 2010
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Chapter 11: CongressCongress Versus ParliamentI.A person becomes a candidate for representative or senator in the U.S. Congress by running in a primary election. Except in a few places, political parties exercise little control over the choice over who is nominated to run for congressional office.A.Voters select candidates in the primaries because of their personalities, positions on issues, or overall reputation.B.Parliament tends to be made up of people loyal to the national party issues. A congress tends to be made up of people who think of themselves as independent representatives of their districtswho expect to vote as to their own constituents.II.The fact that members of Congress do not select the president makes them more powerful.Representatives can vote without worrying that their votes will cause the government to collapse andwithout fearing that a failure to support their party will lead to their removal from the ballot in the nextelection.A.Congress has independent powers that it can exercise without regard to presidential preferences. Political parties do not control nominations for office, and thus they cannotdiscipline members Congress who fail to support the party leadership.III.Members of Congress can initiate, modify, approve, or reject laws, and they share with the presidentsupervision of the administrative agencies of the government.A.Congress tends to be a decentralized institution, with each member more interested in his or her own views and those of his or her voters than with the programs proposed by the president.The Evolution of Congress
The Framers chose to create a bicameral legislature—with a House of Representatives, to be electeddirectly by the people, and a Senate, consisting of two members from each state, to be chosen by thelegislatures of each state. Though all “legislative powers” were to be vested in Congress, those powerswould be shared with the president, limited to powers explicitly conferred on the federal government,and subject to the power of the Supreme Court to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional.II.If Congress were to act quickly and decisively as a body, then there would have to be strong centralleadership, restrictions for debates, few opportunities for stalling tactics, and minimal committeeinterference. If the interests of individual members were to be protected or enhanced, then there wouldhave to be weak leadership, rules allowing for delay and discussion, and many opportunities for committee activity.A.The general trend in this century has been toward decentralizing decision-making andenhancing the power of the individual member at the expense of the congressional leadership.III.The House of Representatives has often changed the way in which it is organized and led.A.The House faces fundamental problems: it wants to be both big and powerful, and its memberswant to be powerful both as individuals and as a group. But being big makes it hard for theHouse to be powerful unless some small group is given authority to run it.B.If a group runs the place, however, the individual members lack much power. Individuals cangain power, but only at the expense of making the House harder to run and thus reducing thecollective power in government.IV.The Senate does not face these problems. It is small enough that it can be run without giving muchauthority to any small group of leaders.A.From the first the Senate was small enough that no time limits had to placed on how long asenator could speak. This meant that there never as anything like the Rules Committee thatcontrolled the amount of debate.B.The big changes in the Senate came not from any fight about how to run it, but from a disputeover how its members should be chosen. The number of wealthy party leaders and businesspeople in the Senate led to a demand for direct, popular election of Senators.
The 17
Amendment was approved in 1913, making election determined by a popular vote.
The other major issue in the development of the Senate was the filibuster—a prolonged speech, or series of speeches, made to the delay action of a legislative assembly.A.Filibusters had become a common and unpopular feature of Senate life by the end of thenineteenth century. It was used by liberals and conservatives alike.
B.Rule 22 was adopted by a Senate fearful of tying a president’s hands during a wartime crisis.The rule provided that debate could be cut off if 2/3 of the senators present and voting agreedto a “cloture” motion.Who is in Congress?I.With the power so decentralized in Congress, the kind of person elected to it is especially important.Since each member exercises some influence, the beliefs and interests of each individual affect policy.Sex and RaceI.Congress has gradually become less male and less white.IncumbencyI.The most important change that has occurred in the composition of Congress has been so gradual thatmost people have not noticed it. In the nineteenth century, a larger fraction of congressmen served onlyone term. Being a congressman in those days was not regarded as a career.A.This was in part because the federal government was not very important, in part because travelto Washington was difficult, and in part because being a congressman did not pay well.Furthermore, many congressional districts were highly competitive, with the two parties fairly balanced in each.B.By the 1950s, serving in Congress had become a career. As the public took note of this shift, people began to complain about “professional politicians” being out of touch with the people.A movement to impose term limits was started.II.The arrival of scores of new faces in the 1990s should not obscure the fact that incumbents still enjoyenormous advantages, and most House members still win big in their districts.
Districts that have close elections are called marginal districts and districts where incumbentswin by wide margins are called safe districts. Most House districts are safe.PartyI.Democrats tend to dominate Congress. This is mostly because Democrats tend to do better in low-turnout districts, while the Republicans do well in high-turnout districts.A.The advantages of incumbency became more pronounced during a time when Democratscontrolled the Congress.B.Democrats generally have more experienced congressional candidates, have more closelyreflected district-level voters’ rights policy preferences, and have been able to fashion winning,district-level coalitions from among national Democratic constituencies.II.By the 1990s the advantages of incumbency had turned into disadvantages: voters increasingly came todislike “professional politicians,” whom they held responsible for the “mess in Washington. TheDemocrats were the majority party in Congress when this happened.A.The anti-incumbent mood, coupled with the effects of redistricting after the 1990 census andthe shift of the South to the Republican party, brought the Republicans into power in the Houseand Senate in the 1994 elections.
In the past the Democratic party was more deeply divided than the Republicans, because of the presencein Congress of conservative Democrats from the South. Often these southern Democrats would votewith Republicans, thereby forming a conservative coalition.A.Since the 1980s, the conservative coalition has become much less important. Congress hassince become more ideologically partisan and created more party unity in voting.Do Members Represent Their VotersI.Members can influence legislation in many ways other than voting: they can conduct hearings, helpmark up bills in committee meetings, and offer amendments to the bills proposed by others.II.There are three theories about how members of Congress behave: representational, organizational, andattitudinal.A.The representational explanation is based on the assumption that members want to bereelected, and therefore they vote to please constituents.B.The organizational explanation is based on the assumption that since constituents do not knowhow their legislator has voted, it is not important to please them. But it is important to pleasefellow members of Congress, whose goodwill is valuable in getting things done and inacquiring status and power in Congress.C.The attitudinal explanation is based on the assumption that there are so many conflicting pressures on members of Congress that they cancel each other out, leaving them virtually free
to vote on the basis of their own beliefs.Representational ViewI.The representational view has the most merit when constituents have a clear view on some issue and alegislator’s vote on that issue is likely to attract their attention. This tends to occur on civil rights bills.II.The problem with the representational view is that public opinion is not strong or clear on mostmeasures.Organizational ViewI.When voting on matter where constituency interests or opinions are not vitally at stake, members of Congress respond primarily to cues provided by their colleagues.A.Cues come from the opinions of colleagues with whom the member of Congress feels a closeideological affinity.Attitudinal ViewI.On many issues the average member of the House has opinions close to those of the average voter.Senators are often less in tune with public opinion.II.The Senate has gone through three phases. In the first, during the 1950s and early 1960s, it was acautious, conservative institution dominated by southern senators and displaying many of the featuresof a club that welcomed members into the inner circle only after they had displayed loyalty to itscustoms.A.The second period began in the mid 1960s as liberal senators rose steadily in number,seniority, and influence. The decentralization of the Senate gave more power to individualsenators, including liberals.B.The third period began in the late 1970s and became most visible after the 1980 elections,when many liberal lost their seats to conservative Republicans. The conservatism of the present Senate is based more on ideology than on the rules of the southern “club” thatcharacterized it in the early 1950s.III.The Democratic party is more deeply divided than the Republicans. There are only a few liberalRepublicans, but there are many conservative Democrats.Ideology and Civility in CongressI.Congress has become an increasingly ideological organization. It has become more polarized thanvoters in terms of political beliefs.A.One result of this polarization is that members of Congress, especially those in the House, donot get along as well as they once did with members who disagree with them, and they aremore likely to challenge one another.The Organization of Congress: Parties and CaucusesI.Congress is a vast collection of organizations by which the business of the legislative branch is carriedon and through which its members form alliances.II.The Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate are organized by party leaders. The keyleaders in turn are elected by the full party membership within the House and Senate.Party Organization of the SenateI.The majority party chooses one of its members—usually the person with the greatest seniority—to be president of the Senate. It is largely an honorific position, required by the Constitution so that theSenate will have a presiding officer in the absence of the vice president of the United States.
The real leadership is the hands of the majority leader (chosen by the senators of the majority party) andthe minority leader (chosen by the senators of the other party). The senators of each party also elect awhip.A.The principal task of the majority leader is to schedule the business of the Senate. He has theright to be recognized first in any floor debate.
The whip is a senator who helps the party leader stay informed about what party members arethinking, rounds up members when important votes are to be taken, and attempts to keep anose count on how the voting on a controversial issue is likely to go.III.Each party also chooses a Policy Committee composed of a dozen senators who help the party leader schedule Senate business, choosing what bills are to be given attention and in what order.IV.From the point of view of individual senators, the key party organization is the group that assignssenators to the standing committees of the Senate.A.These assignments are very important to newly elected senators.

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